A Jacksonville woman says "Petland" sold her a dying puppy and now she's left to pay more than $10,000 in vet bills to save him.

“They really do become a part of your family and just like a newborn, you become attached to them right away,” said Jackie Schwartz about the new addition to her family, a yorkie puppy named Thor.

But she wasn’t prepared when he unexpectedly became sick. “Seeing him in my lap just struggling to breathe was so scary.”

Schwartz says Thor started showing symptoms just two days after bringing him home from Petland on beach boulevard. “was not eating became very lethargic, not acting like a puppy.”

When she took him to the vet for a checkup, Thor tested positive for a gastrointestinal parasite.

“It came back with a strong positive for Giardia so it had been incubating for some time in order to produce that strong positive result so we knew and the vet has confirmed with me that’s there’s no way it could be argued that he didn’t contract it from the pet store.”

Schwartz claims Petland sold her the already sick puppy and she was faced with a very tough decision to make. “Am I going to continue treatment for this puppy or are we going to put him down,” said Schwartz.

Almost $10,000 in medical expenses later, Thor is expected to recover. But Schwartz says she can’t afford to pay for his bills.

“I would like to be fully reimbursed for every single one of his medical costs.”

So First Coast News reached out to Petland. After they had time to review her case they said, “Since this is a legitimate case, we are actively paying back the customer.”

They also said, “This is not the norm nor the standard here and we have hundreds of very happy customers that have gotten puppies from us.”

Schwartz say’s she wants to warn others before they buy a new puppy. “I’m grateful I get to be his advocate and hopefully an advocate for other people and that’s why I wanted to do the interview because I don’t want other people to have to face this.”

Petland sent a statement to First Coast News:

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to these instances and also to even illuminate more about our store versus some of the statements these customers listed to you.

Petland as a whole has been around for 50 years. As Petland matured over the years they evolved into a mainly Franchise operation. The Corporate office does run directly some of the Petland locations in the Mid-West but the large majority are locally owned Franchises. Elizabeth Kunzelman (within the Petland Corporate office) can speak more eloquently regarding Petland’s history than I, so any questions related to that I would like to refer back to her.

of this year. Some of the statements these customers said in their emails to you, claiming th, here in Jacksonville, has only been in operation for 5 years. Having had our most recent Anniversary on Oct 27PetlandMy point being, this particular law suits and others negative reviews they have found online alluding to be linked to our store, I want to make clear that many of those sites you can find on the internet are from stories pre the founding of this location and/or are about other Petland locations owned/operated by other individuals. Just like the recent Campylobacter/CDC story run by your agency, no issues have ever come from our store here in Jacksonville. Yet due to common name, what happened in other locations is somehow linked to us.

In this regard, I can only speak intelligently as it concerns solely to this store/location. I have no control over the operations and day to day functions of other Petlands that I share a common name with. As such, I would appreciate objectiveness and understanding that one cannot basely lump us in with all “Petlands” or “Puppy Stores”. I cannot speak regarding any one else’s operations within the pet store arena. So please disregard any other stories you have heard about our industry and I would happily explain how/why we are so much different here.

Since your story revolves around our puppies I will mainly concentrate on that but I have a few items I would like to note. I want to make sure you are not demonizing our store as we do a lot even within the community and have won several rewards. We are active in supporting K9’s for Warriors here in Jacksonville. Having supported a Veterans service dog’s needs in full, to donating money directly to the program and even more recently donating a German Shepherd to be a service dog for a Veteran.

We actively donate supplies/food on a regular basis to a local rescue groups.

On a monthly basis, we take some of our puppies to a local nursing home to play with some of the members there. We do this because it is fun but also because it is proven that dogs help with heart health!!

For the last 2 years we won “Best in Jax” for Pet stores. Within the Petland organization, we have won the Vanguard Award, the Impact Award, and most recently Kennel Manager of the Year award.

I would be more than happy to send reviews from other customers that have gotten puppies from us, as we always follow up a few days after purchase to check on how the customer is doing and how the puppy is adjusting to their new home. During those calls, we do check on their experience with us and document those responses. I can send you MANY from very pleased customers. Unfortunately, you are only hearing 2 cases which everything didn’t go perfectly.

We are very conscientious regarding where we get our puppies and how they are treated until we find them a new home. We have literally traveled thousands of miles all over to meet with breeders, examine their kennels/dogs and make sure we are only working with good breeders. Breeders that do continual education courses, breeders that get OFA certifications on their dogs, breeders that participate in the Purdue University studies for improvements on dog care. We take pictures and put them up in our store from our trips and even personalize the information for each puppy to showcase the mom and dad dogs with weights and as much information we could gather on our trips to make sure we educate our customers on exactly where their new puppy came from. Literally giving as much information to them as if they themselves traveled and got to visit the breeder. It is a serious concern to us that we work with people that care about their puppies, have socialization plans, retirement plans, all contingencies taken care of so we know the mom’s and dad’s are treated like pets and not just for breeding purposes.

Once we get our puppies here, we hold them for several days until our independent attending DVM comes and inspects our animals on a weekly basis. Not until that attending Vet says they are clear, are our puppies available to our customers to either play with or adopt. Every one of our puppies has a Health Certificate verifying that a DVM has inspected and cleared the puppy of being sick. In face before our puppies are available, they have actually been seen by 3 different vets.

Our holding kennels are larger than requirements dictate. We even recently spent a lot of money making improvements so our puppies can have even MORE room and better care than they already were! As I mentioned earlier our Kennel Manager just won the award for best within the nation for her care of our puppies. We go to extraordinary lengths to provide them the best while in our care and even get outside for walks on a daily basis.

We try and ensure we fully educate customers when they are purchasing a puppy to make sure they are prepared. Our puppies go home with a “puppy kit” so people have the right supplies to care/clean/feed/maintain their puppy and help in making sure the puppy adjusts to their new home/environment. We also even pay so customers have access to dog training material free, plus an AKC program. We have it setup that all customers can have a free health exam from a DVM so we can make sure the puppy is adjusting to its new home. Again, one of our main concerns here is that we educate and prepare the customer for caring for their puppy and knowing about the breed they are getting.

Unfortunately, no matter what, there is no way anyone can be 100% perfect, even though we are 99% perfect. There will always be instances in dealing with living animals. It is like saying you are a bad parent if your kid gets sick in preschool. I bet no one can say their kid ever got through Pre-School without getting sick. Puppies are like kids and are still developing their immune systems so it is bound to happen. We do everything humanly possible to make sure that when our puppies go home they are 100% healthy but do help customers within certain timeframes if in case one of our puppies does get ill. Anytime an animal changes its environment it stresses a little. New sights, sounds, smells etc. and sometimes they get over exerted and with anxiety, immune systems can drop.

Our health warranty covers 14 days which is longer than typical incubation periods for illnesses. If something happens within that time frame we help cover the cost. At times, things happen that are within the customers control. We are not at home with the customer to assist. It is up to the customer to make sure the puppy is eating properly and not doing something that could be dangerous to themselves.

In the case with “Frankie” the French Bulldog CASE #1: The customer was made aware and given paperwork stating that she was purchasing a Brachiocephalic breed dog that they would need to be cautious about that. Bulldogs, boxer, lhasa apso’s, etc due to the structure of their face/nose/muzzle are very prone to respiratory issues. Every type of dog that classifies as a Brachycephalic breed, the customer gets special paperwork outlining this and are instructed about issues like over-heating, breathing, over exertion, etc. Simply put, in regards to this customer/puppy, the puppy aspirated and thus developed the pneumonia. We spoke with the attending DVM that saw the puppy and they stated to best of her knowledge the pneumonia was caused by aspiration. In the X-rays, the particles were in the mid-right lung which is consistent with aspiration being the cause. They were instructed by the doctor to get a specialists opinion but they declined to do so. In this case, the puppy while in the care of the customer, must have inhaled something into its lungs being the catalyst to on setting the pneumonia. Since, in this case, the dog became sick due to nothing related to our care or handling of the puppy, their claim was denied.

’t until late last night, the customer sent us the medical notes and invoices for us to even review. Unfortunately, we have to have those items before we can even begin helping the customer. Sometimes, things get mixed in translation from what the DVM said to what the customer then says the DVM said. Even after speaking with the attending Vet, she indicated that even the customer stated the puppy showed no signs of illness and was very playful and happy at wasnAs it relates to the little Yorkie in your CASE# 2 “Thor”: We are currently taking care of that claim. It time of purchase. It showed no symptoms or any indication to even the DVM that the dog was anything but healthy. Most respiratory issues have an incubation period, anywhere from 4-10 days until a puppy would show any symptoms, this is why we offer a 14-day warranty.

Since this is a legitimate case and unlike the first case due to aspiration, we are actively paying back the customer.

I would like to reiterate again, since this has been a long email, this is not the norm nor the standard here and we have hundreds of very happy customers that have gotten puppies from us. Unfortunately, I guess it only takes 2 bad to damn someone today even though that equates to less than 1% of the puppies we have found homes for. We do tons of good here in the community and are almost 100% perfect all the time.